Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Fraser Valley Birds November 2019, Northern Pygmy Owl, Great Egret, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Sturgeon, Peregrine Falcon

The following are some birds we encountered in the first few weeks of November.

We took a day trip up to Harrison Hotsprings and found this Northern Pygmy-Owl in Sasquatch Park.  We walked under it once and only located it on our return.  They are quite small and not easy to spot.
We searched hard to find a rare Clark's Grebe at Island 22 in Chilliwack but only came up with a common Western Grebe.
While we were looking for grebes this fisherman landed a Sturgeon in front of us.
This Bushtit posed nicely.  Because of the dark eye, we know it is a male.  Females have pale eyes.
I had to wait for this friendly Red-breasted Nuthatch to get off my camera before I could get a picture.  It was looking for sunflower seeds at a local wildlife reserve.
A Peregrine Falcon sat on the shore of Harrison Lake.

We are a few hundred miles north of the Great Egret's range but every so often one shows up here and usually in the fall.  The backlit shot accentuates the wing feathers like an x-ray. 

This Gray-blue Gnatcatcher is the 23rd record for British Columbia and the second record for Dian and I in B.C.  We found our first one at Kelowna, Nov. of last year.  These birds usually migrate south in the fall from their ranges in southern states.  However, this one came north.   It was found by John Gordon in Maplewood Flats, North Vancouver.
Another view of the Gnatcatcher.  This bird was missing a few feathers in its tail.
Pied-billed Grebe at a local park in Abbotsford.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Anahim Lake, Bella Coola August 2019 and Kaslo, BC Oct.10 2019 Grizzlies, Spruce Grouse, Snow Bunting, Barred Owl, Victoria's Yellow-browed Warbler

At the end of August, Dian and I camped at Anahim Lake.  It was a convenient location to leave the trailer without pulling it down a treacherous hill to Bella Coola and Tweedsmuir Park.  This area has a reputation for Grizzly sightings and nothing gets the heart racing faster than a Grizzly.
This map shows the route we traveled.  It was a 2-day trip to get there.
A Common Loon patrolled the waters on Anahim Lake behind our campsite.
We were sitting on the banks of the Atnarko River with a few other people when someone said "there is a bear behind us."  This Grizzly had crept up and was wondering what to do with us.  We all stood up and stayed close together to form a large, and hopefully, intimidating presence.
It, fortunately, circumvented us and climbed down into the river.   
The difference in lighting gave the bear a different color.  In the shadows it was dark.  In the sunlight it had a reddish sheen.
It looked back at us from approximately 10 meters.  It eventually went upstream where it caught a large salmon.  Unfortunately too far away for a good picture.  There is a bear viewing platform just upriver but it didn't open until Sept.1 and we were a week too early.
Back at the Anahim campsite, we saw a few Spruce Grouse.  This female posed nicely.
This Barred Owl was seen back home in Abbotsford.
On Oct. 9 we went to the West Kootenays for a couple of days.
This Grizzly was just leaving a small community.  Its scat revealed it was probably raiding apple trees in someone's yard.  It didn't present any exceptional photo opportunities before it left the road and disappeared up a river.
We walked the shores of Kootenay Lake and found 2 migrating Snow Buntings.
This Canvasback Duck was also along the Kootenay Lakeshore.  The fall colors on the water were striking.
An American Dipper was resting in Davis Creek near Kaslo.  Its eyes are closed revealing its white eyelids.
We just forked out $200 for this substandard picture.  This is what we spent on fares to take the ferry to Victoria to find what may be North America's (apart from Alaska) first record of a Yellow-browed Warbler.  Definitely Canada's first record.  It was found by Geoffry Newell and Jeff Gaskin Oct. 18.  This warbler is usually found in Siberia in summer and migrates to southern Asia in winter.  This one took a wrong turn.  One was seen in the Mexican Baja some years ago.  

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Friday, July 12, 2019

St. Anthony's Nl June 18-21 2019 and Witless Bay Nl June 21-28 2019

This is the final blog of 3 describing our month in Newfoundland.  
St. Anthonys was long way off the beaten track but it was worth the extra effort made to get there. The big attraction was L'anse Aux Meadows but  we were driving down the street one day, when we saw a sign outside the Canadian legion that said it was scoff night.  I don't think we have ever been in a legion before but we figured it may be a great place to meet locals.  And we were right.  The scoff was jigs dinner and we got screeched in as honorary Newfoundlanders.  It was a good time and we met some fabulous people.

This Blackpoll Warbler was on the boardwalk at L'anse Aux Meadows.
Fox Sparrows are very red here.  
Dian was getting a different perspective at Burnt Cape Ecological reserve.
Burnt Cape Nl.
Visitors Centre at L'anse Aux Meadows.  There was still lots of snow in the sheltered areas.

L'anse Aux Meadows Village.

Listening to old Norse tales.
Tourists are invited to dress up in viking costumes but I was the only one that did.  It tells you something about my personality I guess.

Now for something completely different.  It would be over 50 years ago when I worked for the Hudson's Bay co. northern stores, that I purchased a parka that I just loved.  It was made up of 2 layers-duffel inside and a material called Grenfell cloth was used for the windproof outer shell.  The hood was trimmed with wolverine.  It was very warm.  I remember the Bay got them in, but because they were so expensive they didn't sell very well. They sold them off at a big discount and I purchased one.  I often wondered where the name Grenfell originated.   The above picture was taken by Dian in Wabowden, Manitoba around 1969, where I was manager of the store.  It was probably below zero and I was enjoying the snow and sun with a bottle of something.

Jump ahead 50 years and we meet up with the name Grenfell and the parka again in St. Anthony.  There is a museum and centre dedicated to this English doctor who is highly revered in Newfoundland Labrador.   Sir Wilfred Grenfell went to Newfoundland in 1892 to improve the plight of coastal inhabitants and fishermen. That mission began in earnest in 1892 when he recruited two nurses and two doctors for hospitals at Indian Harbour, Newfoundland and later opened cottage hospitals along the coast of Labrador. The mission expanded greatly from its initial mandate to one of developing schools, an orphanage, cooperatives, industrial work projects, and social work. Although founded to serve the local area, the mission developed to include the aboriginal peoples and settlers along the coasts of Labrador and the eastern side of the Great Northern Peninsula of northern Newfoundland. In 1908 on a trip to a remote village he got trapped on an ice pan after falling through the ice.  He had to kill his sled dogs and use the pelts to keep warm. He was eventually rescued and said animal fur wouldn't keep a statue warm.  A textile company in England on hearing this and developed a textile with 600 threads to the inch to honor him and that was the link to the parka I had purchased so many years ago.  I was telling the manager of the gift shop about my parka and she said she was familiar with it and that it was still available.  However it would now cost well over $1000.  I didn't order one.  One more twist to the story. One morning Dian was reading about Grenfell and she said "Do you know Grenfell was born in the same village as you?"  I didn't know that.

Our final destination was Witless Bay Nl.  We chose this location for its proximity to St. Johns and activities such as boat tours to see the local birds and whales.
The following shots was taken around 5AM off the deck of our unit.

Otters scampered on the rocks under the deck.

An Atlantic Puffin was one of thousands on a boat tour we took to Gull Island.

Black-tailed Godwit: Found in a variety of flooded grasslands, estuaries, and exposed mudflats across northern Europe and Asia. Breeds across central Eurasia and winters in sub-Saharan Africa, southeastern Asia, Indonesia, and Australia. Occurs casually on Pribilofs and along the Atlantic Coast from Quebec to Florida.
A birding guide we met, informed us about this bird in Renews Nl.  It is the rarest bird we encountered on the trip.
We spotted this Mink while looking for the Godwit.
It was a 3 hour drive to Cape St. Marys from Witless Bay but well worth it.  
Although the day was sunny, when we arrived at St. Marys the fog rolled in.  The Gannets behind Dian were not far away but barely visible.  
This is an example of an original foggy picture.  A lot of post processing had to be done to make it presentable.  The following pictures are after cropping and processing.

A Common Murre and Razorbill at St. Marys.  Notice the bright yellow gape when the bill is open.  This feature is not often observed.
Razorbill Auks

I spotted this fox while driving to St. Marys.  They are not too concerned with human presence.
We noticed another fox carrying a Common Murre.  We followed it to find it drop off the kill to this kit who was proceeding to "disassemble" it.
We took a day to visit St. Johns.

Most of our time was spent on Signal Hill.  Here one gets a great view of the harbour.  A tour bus arrived and the occupants scattered.  Someone came up to me and started pointing out all the landmarks.  It was the tour guide from the bus and she must have thought I was one of the bus passengers.  I appreciated all the effort she was taking to make sure I got my moneys worth.

The reddish crown on this bird was really making us doubt its identification of a Swamp Sparrow.  Ours on the west coast are so much drabber.

This is the boat we explored the islands with.  It had a naturalist on board which made the trip very personal.  Some of the other tour boats were much larger and more expensive and we wouldn't have gotten the intimate attention.

There were tens of thousands of birds just off the coast.  These are mostly Common Murres.

And finally another shot of Gannets. We saw 81 species of birds on this trip.  To put this into perspective, someone I know went to the Okanagan for 2 days and saw 74 species.  We had 6 Airbnbs and tried to keep the price between $90 and $120 a night.  We never had a bad experience with any of them.  We couldn't have asked for better weather.  It seemed whenever we were travelling it was raining or foggy and we would wake up the next day to gorgeous weather.  

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